By Emalee Gillis, NAMI Spokane Blog Editor.

In November of 2023, Chauntelle Lieske, the Executive Director of NAMI Spokane, participated in a press conference highlighting the importance of passing at the federal level the Kids Online Safety Act. She was joined by Spokane City Council President-elect Betsy Wilkerson, Councilman Jonathan Bingle, and others.

Lieske, who is also the mother of a nine and ten-year-old, said, “I can see first-hand how unregulated social media companies are impacting our youth and children. Children and teens in America are suffering from an acute mental health crisis, in part because of the growing use of social media platforms. While the internet has done incredible things to connect us across great distances and in our busy lives, an increasing body of evidence shows that many online platforms, particularly social media platforms are being designed, programmed, and operated in ways that target young people.”

She continued, “These young people are dealing with harmful unsolicited content that can lead to increasing negative body image, substance abuse disorders, self-harm, and suicidal behaviors. We have seen growing levels of bullying and sexual exploitation in our children and teens.

“These platforms promote addictive use that is taking its toll on our children’s mental and physical health. It’s time to hold these social media companies accountable. Their business practices are putting profits before kids and harming our children. The Kids Online Safety Act of 2023 will give young people and their parents the tools, safety net and transparency they need to protect against threats to children’s health and well-being online. The legislation requires that online platforms put the interest of children first, providing an environment that is safer by default without sacrificing user privacy or autonomy. This critical piece of legislation also ensures that parents and policymakers know whether online platforms are taking meaningful steps to address risks to kids by requiring independent audits and supporting public scrutiny.”

She added, “The last time Congress passed a law to protect children online was twenty-five years ago, long before media companies and their technologies existed and before we even had smart phones. It’s time for Congress to act and put in place safeguards to hold social media companies accountable.”

Liske said that she was calling on our federal lawmakers to pass this bipartisan legislation. She urged the Spokane community to join her in that effort.

According to the Spokesman Review, the bill has the support of the American Psychological Association, Eating Disorders Coalition, American Academy of Pediatrics, and other groups concerned with kids’ welfare. The bill’s detractors include the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and many of the companies that would be subject to additional regulation.

Chauntelle Lieske is the Executive Director of NAMI Spokane. She has been in this position for 2 years.

Emalee Gillis is a writer and blog editor. She is the author of the memoir Adventures on the Path to Living Well with a Mental Illness and has a related TEDx Talk.